Berkeley CSUA MOTD:Entry 44999
Berkeley CSUA MOTD
2019/06/27 [General] UID:1000 Activity:popular

2006/10/26-30 [Computer/Theory] UID:44999 Activity:moderate
10/26   I'm finding OSC's anti-homework rants fairly amusing
        \_ I'm finding them insightful.  Have you read the books he cites?
           \_ No, I haven't.  I think I will, but I'm not in a huge hurry.
              (As my daughter won't be in school for another 2 years.)
              \_ Well, as an adult who went through the educational system,
                 what do you think? I think homework has value. I am not
                 sure that a 5 year old needs to do 4 hours per night,
                 but this kook seems to say that it's not even valuable
                 to a high school student and I strongly disagree with that.
                 The other thing this putz needs to do is figure out what
                 a private school is. Don't like the teachers? Switch
                 schools. What the hell does he think a letter-writing
                 campaign will do to a LAUSD teacher?
                 \_ OSC doesn't say anything about letter-writing campaigns
                    in the article, are you refering to something in the
                    books?  I haven't read those, and can't comment on
                    them.  In the second essay he covers what kind of HW is
                    and isn't reasonable for HS students, and that sounds
                    pretty right on.  I really don't remember elementry well
                    enough to say.  I don't recall oppressive amounts of HW
                    anyway. That doesn't mean it doesn't happen somewhere.
                    He also points out that his daughter currently is not
                    overburdend, so he doesn't need a private school.  Wait,
                    you didn't read the article, did you? -op
                    \_ I read the article and in it he says that if your
                       child's teacher is assigning more homework than you
                       would like then you should start writing letters.
                       It should be every parent's right to raise an idiot
                       child, after all. In the second article, he talks
                       about how people don't need basic math if they are
                       going into the fields of English or PE. (Math is a
                       subject that is homework-intensive.) What does it
                       matter if the Chinese or Russians are better at
                       math, he says. I can't really support that. He thinks
                       it is okay to go gather leaves, but not to do math
                       homework. The truth about most parents who think
                       their kids have too much homework is that their
                       kids just aren't very bright and that's why it
                       takes them so long to do it. I have witnessed this
                       first hand.
                       \_ Yep, a lot of what he says is a little wacky, no
                          argument there.  However, he doesn't say
                          non-science people don't need "basic
                          math" he says the don't need 4 years of HS math
                          (up to calculus.)  I personally don't really
                          agree, (sounds like the German system, which has
                          well known defects) but you don't need to
                          exaggerate.  On the letter writing, he advocates
                          1 letter to the teacher with a cc to the
                          principal, that's not a "campaign" that's
                          documentation.  I can't respond to your last
                          sentence.  Again, it differs by location.
                          \_ Note that Math-up-to-Calculus is not required for
                             students who do not intend to attend college. For
                             those who do intend to go to college, I can't
                             recommend math up to Calculus enough because:
                             a) it exposes students to a field that they may
                             find interesting enough to pursue, & b) it teaches
                             the kind of discipline you need to do better than
                             a C average in college (and get anywhere in life).
                             \_ Field?  You mean math?  I would argue that you
                                don't really get exposed to that "field" until
                                you take something like 104.  Maybe kids should
                                take analysis in highschool?  I was lucky enough
                                to get exposed to things like analysis and
                                differential geometry in highschool and did
                                get hooked, but I don't think most highschool
                                students who take up through calc get exposed
                                to anything remoteley resembling real math
                                as it's practiced by mathematicians.
                             \_ They should have real analysis in highschool
                                if the goal is to get kids hooked on math.
                                Too bad most highschool math teachers are
                                not qualified to teach that.
                                    \- i loved analysis [mostly because i
                                       like topology] but i dont agree
                                       with this at all. being able to think
                                       in terms of marginal rates of change,
                                       gradients, minimization and maximizing
                                       of functions is useful for many many
                                       problems, even if in just a conceptual
                                       sense where you arent actually doing
                                       the math ... and some things are
                                       probably EASIER to explain with
                                       elementary calculus without
                                       calculus [like a lot of mirco econ].
                                       on the other hand, i dont think most
                                       people really need deep understanding
                                       of continuity, let alone more
                                       complicated stuff like compactness.
                                       for science people, understanding
                                       more about integration theory and
                                       measure isnt bad. but this is a much
                                       smaller group than the "practically
                                       everyone" who would benefit by
                                       learning some calculus. rather than
                                       analysis, i think i'd recommend a
                                       analysis, i'd recommend a class on
                                       "science that everybody should know"
                                       [DNA, gravity, a little atomic theory,
                                       conservation laws, evolution, some
                                       astronomy etc].
                                       \_ Dude, I'm not seriously advocating
                                          forcing everyone in highschool to
                                          take analysis.  I do think that in
                                          a perfect world, there would be
                                          an *opportunity* for highschool
                                          kids to get exposed to it if they're
                                          really into math.  Even if it's just
                                          as simple as having a calc teacher
                                          that knows enough to hand their
                                          best, most bored students a copy of
                                          Rudin to read for fun.
                                \_ Agreed! However, the same could be said of
                                   critical analysis of history and current
                                   events and the lack of qualified
                                   instructors. Cf. "Lies My Teacher Taught Me"
                                   \_ Is history addictive like math?  I'm not
                                      sure.  "Don't worry, kid.  It's just a
                                      harmless little book with some funny
                                      symbols...and the first one's free"--
                                      and then you're hooked!  Before you know
                                      it, you're living in your car and ripping
                                      off people's TV sets to get money to
                                      buy your Springer-Verlag books.
2019/06/27 [General] UID:1000 Activity:popular

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Rhinoceros Times, Greensboro, NC By Orson Scott Card September 17, 2006 Homework, Part I The Worst Job in the World What if you had a really lousy job? You're only employed for seven hours a day, but you have to ride the bus for half an hour each way. While you're there, they only let you go to the bathroom at certain times. You only have ten minutes to get from one work station to another, and somehow you also have to use the toilet and get your new work materials from a central depository during those breaks, without being late. If you do anything wrong, you aren't allowed to talk to anybody during lunch. A job supervisor also lives in your house, and makes you do two or three more hours of the same work you did on the job. The at-home supervisor is even harsher than the one at work and has more power to inflict annoying punishments if you fail to comply. If you're sick and miss a day or two, then when you get better, you have to do all the work that you missed -- both the on-the-job and the at-home tasks. It's the law -- the government requires you to stick with it for at least ten years. What if, on top of all this misery, the work you had to do at home wasn't even real? What if you just went through the motions of all the tasks you did on the job, but you didn't actually accomplish anything? You just spent meaningless hours, repeating the physical movements, while the at-home supervisor says things like, "That's how you do it?" That's a fair description of the lives of far too many of our school-age children. Child Labor Laws We made laws abolishing child labor, because we thought it was criminal to deprive children of their childhood. Yet we tolerate burdening our children, not only with six or seven hours of schoolwork during the day, but also with a steadily increasing amount of homework at night, on weekends, and during holidays and vacations. What it amounts to is this: Too many of our homework-burdened children don't have vacations. Because the schools feel free to assign them work to do during all those supposed times of rest and recuperation. It would be like the army sending soldiers home on leave from a war zone, but arranging that the enemy will still be shooting at them while they're home. This essay is not about my particular schoolchild's current situation. Most of the studies, admittedly, use the extremely unreliable method of "self-reporting," in which the amount of homework is estimated either by the teachers, the parents, or the students. Not surprisingly, nobody agrees on just how much homework the kids have. The teachers think the kids have far less than either students or the parents think they have. The real question, though, is whether homework actually improves academic performance. Of course, the question even deeper than that is whether we have any way to measure how much actual learning takes place. It's quite possible for students to get very good grades and score very well on standardized tests, while coming to hate the whole process of education and spending the rest of their lives avoiding anything that resembles reading or mathematics or study. But for the moment let's just use the normal measures of academic achievement -- grades and standardized tests. The first problem here is that if homework is graded, then obviously failing to do your homework is going to lower your grade in the course. It's a circular process: homework "helps" your grade because if you don't do it, your grade will be lowered. It still doesn't tell us anything about whether homework helped you learn more. So in a meaningful study of whether homework accomplishes anything, we would need to have students who were otherwise getting identical instruction, half of whom did two hours of homework a night, and half of whom were assigned none. Then we compare how they do on the same regularly scheduled tests and see if homework helped. The trouble is, in the real world the students assigned homework would rebel. Nor can you let parents decide which kids get homework, because the gung-ho parents who choose to have their kids do homework are also likely to be the motivated parents whose kids are going to be pressured to study more whether there's homework assigned or not. There's no way to do a fair study based on grades where everything, except homework, is identical. Standardized Tests Even using standardized tests doesn't help much, when the amount of homework different groups are doing is self-reported by teachers, students, or parents. Furthermore, a group of students might be getting a superb education, with or without homework, without having it all show up on the standardized tests, which don't measure the quality of your education. The standardized tests measure only one thing: how well you do on standardized tests. Whereas some very bright kids freeze up on standardized tests, performing far below their actual academic level. But let's pretend that grades and standardized tests actually measure something meaningful, and better results on those would mean that homework accomplishes something. That's what a researcher named Harris Cooper did, according to Alfie Kohn, in his book The Homework Myth: Why Our Kids Get Too Much of a Bad Thing. Cooper looked at a number of different studies of homework and sifted and combined the results to see if some kind of definitive answer emerged. When Kohn looked at Cooper's published results, the answer was obvious. In Cooper's own words from 1989: "There is no evidence that any amount of homework improves the academic performance of elementary students." That means that there is zero scientific evidence that kids before middle school get any performance boost whatsoever from any amount of homework, no matter how large or small. And yet when Cooper reached his own conclusions at the end of his published report, he came up with the oft-quoted formula that the ideal amount of homework is ten minutes per grade level per night. That would mean almost an hour a night for fifth graders -- even though Cooper's own meta-study found that there was no evidence that any homework for elementary students had any benefit. Apparently, we have a problem when "science" is done by true believers. Even when Cooper's study found no defense for elementary-school homework, he still found a way to recommend in favor of requiring some anyway. Kohn takes apart all the existing pro-homework studies to demonstrate how fundamentally worthless they are, in methodology, in interpretation, and in how they're reported. He's far more committed to the touchy-feely school of education than I am, and much of his book is slanted in that direction. But his critique of bad science is sound -- I've had years of experience with just how bad what passes for science in the field of education can be, and Cooper's study, for instance, is actually from the reliable end of the spectrum. When the most-quoted "proof" that homework is "good" states that it can't be shown to have any benefit for elementary school kids, why do we still have teachers sending kids home with work to do from those grades? Here's what the studies find about homework in high school. If your kid in twelfth grade spends two hours a night doing homework (Cooper's recommended ten minutes per grade per night), that means twelve hours a week -- which is the equivalent, when you subtract class changes and lunch, of two extra school days a week. And those two extra days -- a 28 percent increase in academic time -- make only 4 percent difference in outcome? Is that additional 28 percent worth the nearly trivial 4 percent? For an alarming number of kids of all ages, their entire relationship with their parents has been turned into a war over homework. The first thing the parents say to their kids after school is, "Do you have any homework?" That's not a parent-child relationship, that's a foreman-millworker relationship. To have not even a day when they can say, Whew, I'm done with that, I can have a break! Sure, some people with Type A personalities do live like that -- but most of us don't even consider that a life. We want to have days we can count on not belonging to our ...
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Rhinoceros Times, Greensboro, NC By Orson Scott Card September 24, 2006 Homework, Part II Why Do We Still Get Homework? Many who admit that homework is probably academically worthless in the elementary grades and not very helpful in high school still think kids should have it because: 1 It gets parents involved in their kids' education. This implies that the homework isn't for the kids, it's for the parents. In other words, the school feels they have a right to assign parents to spend time doing worthless assignments with their children. But what exactly are we doing when we're "involved" in our kids' homework? Either we're not needed, because the kids can do it fine without us, or we are needed, because the kids can't do it alone. Believe it or not, parents actually have other things to do with their children to help them become civilized human beings. We don't need teachers to assign us busywork just to get us "involved" in our kids' education. We were teaching them before they got old enough for school. We are their most important and powerful teachers of the core lessons of life, so those who are hired to give them their formal education really shouldn't make us do their job. Besides, the kind of parents who aren't involved in their kids' education also don't help them do their homework. The only parents who help their kids with their homework are the ones who are involved in their education all the time anyway. So do we make them spend an hour a night pushing pedals and turning a steering wheel for ten years prior, so they'll be "used" to it? If homework doesn't begin to do any good till seventh grade, then start assigning it in seventh grade. They didn't need to spend hours each week practicing it for years beforehand. There are parents who are so competitive -- and so unaware of what homework is actually worth -- that they think their kids are not getting a "good education" unless they're plying the books all night every night. To those parents, why don't we just say: Hire a private tutor. Make your children's childhood a living hell -- it's your option. But don't tell the school to make my kid do useless homework just so your kid can get a spurious "advantage." In fact, if you hire a private tutor to waste your children's hours, you'll get far more "advantage" than if everybody's doing homework. There really are grinches and scrooges in the world, people who are really annoyed to see children being happy and carefree. They believe that the only good way to raise a child is with suffering and hard work. They can't understand why we ever abolished child labor -- the kids should be productive, part of the economy, not drones! I had a miserable childhood, so why should these little brats be happy! What they actually say, of course, is "Homework keeps the kids off the streets" or "out of gangs" or "out of trouble." This is so mind-numbingly stupid that I can't believe people actually say this without getting laughed out of the room -- but they do, and they aren't. Don't they get it that the kids who are on the streets and in gangs and getting in trouble aren't doing homework? The only kids who are controlled by homework are the kids who either care enough to do it themselves -- the motivated students -- or the ones with parents who make them do it -- the ones with close parental supervision. In other words, precisely the group of kids that already wasn't on the streets and didn't join gangs and didn't get in trouble. The "bad kids" are going to be bad with or without homework. And here's a clue: Homework is usually so mind-numbingly dull, so endless, so hopeless, so relentless, so useless that lots of motivated, bright kids whose parents are involved turn savagely against the whole idea of school. They hate reading, they hate writing, they hate everything because they never get a break, the process never ends, and they know perfectly well that it accomplishes nothing. This is the damage that homework really does: It kills the love of reading and writing in thousands and thousands of children every year. Just because other kids in other countries score higher on some standardized test doesn't mean anything. We have these stupid scares every couple of decades and they are never based on anything true or important. Even if the average American kid weren't as good at, say, mathematics as the average French schoolchild wouldn't mean that American mathematicians are not going to be as good as French mathematicians. An American kid who's going to major in English or business can get a putrid score in math and it doesn't have any bearing on whether we're going to stay "ahead" of the Russians or French or Japanese in math or science. In fact, making a future English or history or PE major take four years of high school math is a colossal waste of time, damaging that child's grade point average and his or her love of learning, to no purpose whatsoever. Besides, some of those countries where the kids score "better" than ours actually do less homework than our kids. And some of the countries whose scores are in the toilet do more homework. That's because the kind of people who tout those comparisons where American kids are proven "behind" are all trying to talk you into spending more money on education or forcing more kids to major in fields they aren't interested in or putting up with more homework. They already have their goal in mind -- they only tell you the statistics they think will get you alarmed enough to let them get their way. Homework teaches obedience and compliance -- the opposite of responsibility. Homework, the way it's usually assigned, is not even remotely a matter of choice. When we say somebody is a responsible adult, we mean that they see jobs that need doing and simply do them, without being asked, of their own free will. But when teachers say that students are "responsible" for homework, they only mean that if the children don't obey, they will be penalized. They are responsible only in the negative sense -- they will bear the consequences of noncompliance. It removes countless choices because it takes away all the available time for them to be carried out. Time Off from School Is Not Wasted We actually do know some things about how the brain works. One of the most obvious principles is this: Learning requires focus, and focus requires downtime. We know this and take it into account in high-tension jobs -- like air traffic controllers. They work limited shifts precisely because you can't maintain focused attention for longer than a few hours at a time. How long do you think children can maintain focused attention? Many don't even reach adult attention spans until they're in their twenties. And yet we require them to focus intensely on six or seven different subjects during the school day ... and then cycle through half of them again for hours each night! And we keep the pressure up on weekends, holidays, vacations. Airline pilots are required to take twenty-four hours off between flights. Air traffic controllers get a night's sleep between shifts. Good Homework Kohn, in The Homework Myth, makes one declaration that should be the law in every state in the union: The default condition should be NO homework. This borrows the computer usage of the term default, meaning the condition that prevails if nobody makes a deliberate change. Homework should have to be justified each time, not assumed. Children and parents should start every day of every week of school assuming that unless something important comes up, there won't be any homework. It's something so major that it really can't be completed on school time. It's the biology project where you collect the leaves of forty different species of tree or bush in your neighborhood and identify them by scientific name and leaf type. That's not an empty project -- it means something, you learn something, it can't be done in school, and it can be done by high school students without any help from parents. It's the major paper for English class where you read three different novels that tell the story of King Arthur -- let's say TH White's, Mary Stewart's, and Jack Whyte's -- and co...